Australia Photos!

Okay, I’m gonna be lazy for the time being, and rather than insert a lot of photos into existing blog posts, I’ve posted them to my Flickr site. You can view them by clicking here. If you follow that link (as opposed to clicking the Photos feed on the right-hand sidebar), the photos are sorted in chronological order. There aren’t many up (the free version of Flickr doesn’t allow for too many in one shot… besides, uploading the 1000+ I actually took would take a while), but it’s a start. If you want to see the larger version of a photo, click on it and then click the “All Sizes” button right above it. I definitely recommend it, especially for the scenic views.

Also, if you’ve seen the pics I posted on Facebook, these are pretty much the same ones (with the addition of shots from the Atherton Tablelands), however, the large version of the pics have considerably better resolution than Facebook allows.

Australia Day 14- Of Rainforests and Rental Cars

The past two and a half days I’ve been making my way in a rental car around the Atherton Tablelands, a plateau just inland from Cairns and the Northern Australia coast. It’s an interesting mix of farmlands and tropical rainforest. Admittedly, the former was created by clear cutting large chunks of the latter, but there’s a much greater emphasis on preservation and sustainability than there was a hundred years ago. Some sections of forest have even been re-planted so that the wildlife have corridors to cross between different areas of forest, and in places where the forest is cut by roads, rope bridges have been built between the trees on either side to allow small wildlife, like possums, to cross. This has apparently worked, and road kills are way down.

Still, not all was well. From my first day, I saw the effects of a years-long drought that has gripped the entire country; the air was hazy with dust from a dust storm system that has affected Sydney badly and made worldwide news. And even though I was almost 2000 miles north of Sydney, the same system was in evidence here. It wasn’t nearly as bad, but it did mean the horizon faded into a white haze in every single scenic picture I took.

Which was okay, since the most interesting stuff was usually up close. In the farmlands, brahman cows dotted the landscape, and hung out by the fence with peaceful looks (really, though, when do you see a cow without a peaceful look? Other than a bullfighting ring, that is), munching on grass contentedly. The farmlands were punctuated with long stretches of rainforest, and every mile, or so it seemed, there was a turn-off that led down a dirt road to a beautiful scene with a waterfall, the sort of perfectly idyllic jungle picture that made me expect to see Tarzan and Jane splashing in the swimming hole at the bottom.

There were other cool sights around, too. The area used to be very volcanic (the aboriginies even tell stories of when this area was “a land of fire”), and I could see the effects of it. One particularly cool site is the Mt. Hypipamee Crater (aboriginal names are always fun… for example, Wooroonooran National Park), which isn’t really a crater at all, but a site where volcanic gas exploded out of the ground. The result is a massive hole about 200 feet wide and 450 feet deep, the bottom 250 of which is submerged in water. It’s particularly fun to throw a rock down it, since the resulting splash will echo up the crater walls with a reverberation effect that makes it sound almost like a gunshot.

Each little town I drove through has its own character, and it was striking how much rural Australia is like rural America, except with land rovers instead of pickup trucks, patches of tropical rainforest instead of patches of temperate forest, and with the cars racing down the wrong side of the road (on purpose, that is).

Which brings me to the whole driving-on-the-wrong-side-road thing. Australians, like the British, drive on the left-hand side. I had never done this before (I’ve avoided driving so far on my trips to Britain), and so was mildly nervous… luckily, I had the constant reminder of the steering wheel being on the other side (the “right” side, as a British tourist pointed out to me) of the car. I never ended up on the wrong side of the road, well, except for one or two times, but seeing a car barreling toward me quickly clued me in that something was amiss.

Actually, those incidents weren’t even caused by the difference in which side of the road you drive on; rather, they were caused by the fact that the Aussies have apparently not discovered yellow road paint. This means a dashed white line down the road can mean either “feel free to switch lanes whenever you like” or “okay, you can pass that slow-moving car in front of you, but I definitely wouldn’t hang out there unless you have a fondness for 200 km/hr collisions” (or, to use American parlance, “ouch”). More embarrassing than ending up on the wrong side of the road was the time I ended up on a bike path, so I probably shouldn’t even mention that.

It’s not just the steering wheel that switches sides in an Australian car; it’s everything. The dashboard is a mirror image. So in an American car, the turn signals are controlled by the stick to the left of the steering wheel, in an Australian car, it’s the stick to the right. This means pretty much every time I wanted to turn I ended up with the windshield wipers on. And of course the entire console (radio, A/C, etc), had to be operated with the left hand instead of the right, which might be great for lefties, but is sort of annoying for the other 90% of the population.

And I won’t even count the number of times I went to get in the car and found myself staring at the passenger seat. If there were people around, I would have to cover for my mistake by pretending to fix something on the passenger side, then, done with that, walk around and get in the driver’s side.

All in all, though, it was a fun adventure, and the Tablelands were actually great for driving. Lots of interesting stops over a fairly wide area, and beautiful scenery that would have been even more beautiful if not for the constant dust storm. My final driving adventure, which took me back to Cairns Airport this morning, was a winding mountain road back down off the plateau, which involved lots of steering around hairpin turns, trying to not get distracted by the view or plowed into by the cars racing up the hill, all the while trying to keep the car successfully in the “wrong” lane. Fun times.

To make matters more interesting, the rental company had given me a Ford Falcon, which, ignoring all issues with the left side of the road, is a much wider car than I’m used to, so I was constantly getting friendly with the little bumps on the side of the road as I edged away from the middle dividing line. It’s probably good I didn’t have any passengers, as they would have bailed out from fear halfway down.. and it was a fairly short trip from the passenger side over the edge of the mountain.

Nevertheless, both my car and I survived without a scratch. If I could say one thing to the Aussies about driving, it would be: if you want to drive on the left, be my guest, but seriously… yellow road paint. Try it. You’ll like it, I promise.

Australia Day 11- Reef Debrief

Note: From here I’m actually posting blog entries from back in the U.S., catching up, as Internet access was fairly limited over the second half of my trip. Still back-dating them to the day they should have been posted.

Over the past 3 days I’ve been on a 25-meter boat with about 40 other people (in English units, this is “kind of cramped”), doing pretty much nothing but eating, diving, and sleeping. I could get used to that life, actually. These were pretty much my first ocean dives, so it took me a dive or two to feel comfortable with what I was doing, but after that it was a blast.

Scuba diving isn’t the most relaxing activity in the world; part of your mind always has to keep track of where your buddy is, and stay aware of your depth and your air gauge. This was particularly problematic for me because the air tanks came in multiple sizes, and by random chance I was assigned the smallest size, which was about a third smaller than my diving partner’s. This meant it was always me who was cutting short the dive due to lack of air, watching my gauge, and willing it to go down less slowly. Oh well. That’s diving for you. Some people snorkeled, but pretty much everything interesting was over 20 feet down– much easier to access with an air tank.

Usually when I told someone I would be diving the Great Barrier Reef, the comment I got was either “Watch out for sharks!” or “Watch out for jellyfish!” Actually, there are no jellyfish on the Great Barrier Reef (at least not box jellyfish, which are the scourge along most of the coast). The reef is several miles offshore, and the jellyfish stay further in… on top of that, it wasn’t even jellyfish season. As for sharks, they were actually the shyest creatures on the reef… they almost always swim away when you get close (close in my experience was “about thirty feet”). The best time to see sharks was on the night dives, near the boat, when you could just see their green eyes hovering at the edge of the floodlights.

Ah, yes, the night dives.. here the objective wasn’t so much to see cool stuff (although that was certainly part of it), it was also the adrenaline rush that comes from diving into a pitch black ocean 60 feet deep. Actually, it wasn’t totally pitch black… the area around the boat was illuminated with flood lights, giving it a creepy greenish tinge. When we moved away from the boat, we had powerful flashlights with could reach several meters through the water, and this was mainly how we saw stuff. Navigating via compass was the hardest part, once you were out of sight of the boat… luckily my dive partners knew what they were doing, because more often than not I got lost (my scoutmasters who taught me orienteering would be ashamed).

Despite the supposed dangers of diving the reef, it was those “dangers” that we all looked for. Sharks, stingrays, barracuda, moray eels… those would always provide the best conversation back on the boat, but they were few and far between. Mostly we got to dive around cool coral formations and see lots of different small fish (the most photogenic ones were always the quickest and hardest to take pictures of), and the most serious injury anyone suffered was sunburn.

So all in all it was a fun dive trip, and I was sorry to see it end on the third day, right when I had finally gotten the hang of ocean diving, and had learned to extend my dives from 30 to 45 minutes by being more careful with my air and staying shallow. I actually preferred shallow dives, not just because you use up your air slower, but also because the colors are better. Colors fade very quickly underwater, and red fades first, which is why the photos I’ll post later are extremely dominated by blue and green. Usually when you see professional underwater video or photography, the scene is either artificially lit (since if the light source is with the diver, there is less distance for colors to fade over) or are filmed with a red filter (basically a red-tinted monocle for your camera).

My only worry now is that having started my ocean-diving career on the Great Barrier Reef, other places just won’t measure up by comparison…. like starting your mountain-climbing career with Everest. But every dive is its own experience, and I’d love to dive in the Caribbean and see how it compares. North Carolina’s coast may not have coral reefs, but it does have plenty of shipwrecks, which is something I didn’t see on the reef.

That isn’t my main concern right now, though: having lived on a small-ish boat for three straight days, I’d really just like the world to stop swaying…

Australia Day 8- Half-Baked Thoughts from the Halfway Point

I got to Australia on the 13th. It’s the 20th. I’m leaving on the 27th. It actually feels like I’m past the halfway point, but maybe that’s because the first week was the busiest. Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Brisbane, and now I’m typing this from the hostel in Cairns. Coming up next week: the Great Barrier Reef, the rainforest, and one last evening in Sydney.

Brisbane was a nice city, but not particularly interesting from a blogging perspective. Lots of green space, some great outdoor malls, and a picturesque river… all make for better pictures than stories. (On a side note: I’m posting pics to Facebook, but haven’t posted any on the blog yet because that takes time, and I’ve had difficulty finding Internet time that isn’t really expensive. So I’ll probably go back to all my blog entries and post pics on ’em when I get back.)

Anyway, a few random thoughts before I go off to the Great Barrier Reef and get fully cut off from the Internet for 3 days (horror!):

-My left shoulder has been complaining about the backpack I carry everywhere. It got worse in the Blue Mountains, and I had to improvise some extra padding– so I used a sleeping mask, folded under the strap, which worked for a while. Unfortunately, I lost it when I took my backpack off to take a break, but I can console myself that when someone finds a sleeping mask at a cliffside overlook in the middle of the mountains, I will have successfully made the world a weirder place.

-America may have lost the ability to manufacture anything but reality TV and faux outrage, and the entire country may be more bankrupt than Bernie Madoff’s investors, but I am pleased to note we still appear to lead the world in certain major areas: ubiquitous acceptance of credit and debit cards, and ubiquitous (and often free) wi-fi spring immediately to mind.

-It’s good to know that American culture has penetrated the world to the extent that even halfway around the world, I can have my ears assaulted with the exact same incessantly annoying pop songs as at home. Does Taylor Swift not realize that Romeo and Juliet DIE at the end of the story? It’s supposed to be a tragedy; instead, the only tragedy is that the song has been stuck in my head for the past day and a half.

-I love decent public transportation. I loved it in Europe, and I love it in Australia. Why can’t we do it in America, outside of like 5 cities? I know, I know, it’s because American cities are too spread out… I still think it sucks. Both Sydney and Brisbane have fully functioning rail, bus, and ferry public transport networks. And Brisbane is only a city of 2 million! That’s only twice as big as the Raleigh-Durham metro area in North Carolina. Of all the things that piss me off about America… well, this isn’t number one, but it’s in the Top Five.

-Australian (and for that matter, European) cities also do green space way better than American cities. Sydney and Brisbane both had massive, well-kept, and free Botanical Gardens located smack in the heart of the city; actually, both had multiple such parks. They’re what New York’s Central Park wishes it could be.

-With all this ranting about what America doesn’t do well, I’ll give you one thing it does do well: currency. Aside from the previously-mentioned fact that debit cards are ubiquitous (they’re widespread in Australia, but some places, notably the Sydney Rail Network, still either don’t take them or require a minimum purchase cost), there’s the matter of coins. I’m quite happy that dollar coins never caught on in America; Australia and Europe have both 1 and 2 dollar (Euro) coins. Maybe this is just me, but I like dollar bills, which fit quite nicely in my wallet and don’t increase the weight of my pants pockets by two pounds, thanks.

-Anyway, enough general ranting. I’m in Cairns now, and I think this is the closest to the Equator I’ve ever been (the latitude is 16 degrees South… which is closer than my previous record, Grand Cayman, which is at 19 degrees North). Cairns has a touristy but relaxed feel to it… and like Brisbane, it has a great outdoor mall. I’m not gonna get to spend much time here, though (leaving at 6 am tomorrow), which is a shame. Still, I bet the Great Barrier Reef will be even better.

Australia Day 7- Interlude on Writing

In the Blue Mountains and in Brisbane, I’ve taken time out each day to rest my feet (much needed) and just relax (not quite as needed, but fun). The Kookaburra Inn, where I’m staying in Brisbane, has a particularly nice little patio where I can sit for a couple hours in the shade, put my feet up, and type away. Most of my creative energy has been funneled into planning out a novel for National Novel Writing Month, which will be the subject of a longer blog entry when I get back, but suffice to say: come November, me and a few thousand other authors are each going to try to write a 50,000-word novel from scratch in 30 days. Why, you ask? Well, why not?

I’m also trying to organize a few people from my Writing Group who are going to do it as well, and our first meeting is four days after I get back to the U.S. Trying to organize a first-time group meeting? In the US? From Australia? Yeah, I don’t recommend it.

Australia Day 5- Blue Mountain Blogging

Today’s entry finds me in Katoomba, amidst the Blue Mountains, about 2 hours inland by train from Sydney. I was sorry to leave the city– I could easily spend two weeks just there, but in the interests of seeing all I can, it was time to move on. And there were aspects of my Sydney stay that I was ready to leave behind, like my hotel, which had a certain “charming ambience” exemplified by the solicitations for gay sex that were etched into every stall door in the communal bathroom. At least I had my own bedroom; I’m staying in a dormitory-style hostel now. It’s easier to meet people this way, though, and harder to be lonely.

My last day in Sydney took me to Taronga Zoo, which was much like any other zoo, except for the view it provided– since it was on the hills of the harbor opposite the Opera House, the entire zoo looked out over a full view of central Sydney’s skyline (the giraffes had an especially good view, and not just because of their long necks).

There was one particular section where kangaroos, wallabies, and emus wandered loose in a large enclosure that visitors could walk through, which meant a kangaroo with a joey in its pouch might come up and sniff your leg, or if you left your belongings lying on a rock in order to take a picture, they might get attacked by emus (this actually happened to a Japanese tourist, when an emu tried to eat his umbrella).

After strolling through the zoo and dodging the hordes of hyperactive, screaming schoolchildren who were also there (some things are constants in human society, and one of them is the behavior of kids in large groups), I made my way back to central Sydney, then out of Sydney into the mountains.

After spending the morning hiking through tourist-laden but beautiful forest paths and along spectacular cliffsides, I’m now back in the hostel, resting my feet, which reached their limit, oh, I’d say sometime in the afternoon of Day 1.

Australia Day 3- On Winging It, Wickedly

I said in my first Australia that there might not be an entry for every day. I did not, however, say there wouldn’t be days with multiple entries…

One nice thing about travelling, particularly by yourself, is the ability to change or make plans instantly, on whatever whim strikes you. Like how, tonight, after dining at what was recommended to me as the best Thai restaurant in Sydney (a neat little hole in the wall with way better food than you’d think), I was strolling through the area, seeing what there was to see, when my path happened to take me by the Capitol Theatre, where the Australian production of “Wicked” was in its first week of playing. A half hour later, the play is starting, and I’m seated in the center of the eighth row from the stage. Fun times.

By the way, the production was awesome, and I was particularly drawn to the story. The best villains are always the heroes of their own story, so purely as a storytelling exercise, I loved the way a stereotypical evil villain was re-written into a fully fleshed out, “good” (in multiple senses of the word) character. I should really go read the novel that the musical was based on. But did I mention how awesome the production was?

(On a side note, I learned that Australian actors, when singing in musicals, do not have a noticeable accent. Either they suppress it, or they just don’t sing with one. I was kind of disappointed.)

Australia Day 3- Manly Blog Entry

Manly is a section of Sydney north of the harbor, stretching from well inland to where the harbor empties into the Pacific Ocean, and let me state for the record that it’s a great name for a place. I wanted to take pictures of me flexing my arms in front of every sign I saw. Let’s take the Manly Ferry to the Manly Wharf, and stop by the Manly Visitor Center! Maybe we’ll visit the Manly Art Gallery! Grrr! It gives me a testosterone rush just thinking about it.

In this case, the name was given because the British officer who first met the natives here was impressed by how manly they were. More places should have adjectives for names: “Let’s go visit Awesome today!” “Nah, I’d rather drive over to Totally Kickass.”

Anyway, I was there to hike the Manly Scenic Walkway, a nine-kilometer (45 furlong) walk from the beach on the Pacific, following the harbor shoreline through various subdivisions a national park. It’s really a good way to get an idea of how absolutely massive Sydney harbor is. Most people who’ve never been here only see the pictures of central Sydney, with the bridge and the opera house, and think that’s all there is. I know I did. As it turns out, that’s just one little nook of the harbor, which is actually fairly far inland from the actual harbor opening. Most of the harbor has almost a Mediterranean vibe to it, with red-roofed houses intermixed with greenery along the hills of the shoreline. There are enough million-dollar homes surrounding the harbor to make Malibu blush, and it’s obvious why– virtually every view has me snapping pictures, and the water is remarkably clear.

The Manly Scenic Walkway winds along the edge of high-class neighborhoods, past marinas full of sailboats, then into Sydney Harbour National Park, a section of fairly unspoiled wilderness sitting smack dab in the middle of the bustling city, winding its way past empty, pristine beaches and culminating a climb up to the top, which gives you as close to a full view of the harbor as you’ll get. (There is no 360-degree view that lets you take in the entire harbor. It’s too big.) A lot of wildlife here, too… a Kookaburra sitting on the railing lets me get within a few feet, and several goannas sun themselves on the path. At the top, a black-and-white bird noisily insists that I share my granola bar with him, so I do.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a day. My only complaint is that the Welsh tourism board is apparently in charge of signage. (Not really; that’s an in-joke that only my Dad will get.) Suffice it to say, getting lost was a common occurrence, but hey, that’s what makes exploring interesting.

Australia Day 1- Travails of Jet Lag

This is the first in several entries on Australia. There won’t be one for everyday, just whenever a good blog entry pops into my head. I’m also going to back-date them to the day they happened.

Australia. Oz. Down Under. It’s a place everybody claims they want to go, but very few people actually do- which is a shame. I mean, aside from the cost of a plane ticket and a 24-hour plane ride, why the heck not? Even the plane ride isn’t that bad these days, what with a library of movies, music, and TV shows at your own personal beck and call through the entertainment system. Just be sure to get an aisle seat (which I did), and get up frequently… which I did, but mainly because my digestive system was busy “filing complaints,” shall we say.

I had also procured some sleep medication, because if there’s one thing I’m not good at, it’s sleeping on planes. It’s like every possible discomfort is magnified threefold, whether it’s my back digging into the armrest, or the little kid shrieking ten rows up. (Side note: a surprising number of people think it’s worth it to fly to Australia with little kids.) (Side-side note: Ear plugs are awesome.) (Side-side-side note: now back to your regularly scheduled programming.)

The sleeping pill I took is supposed to give you eight hours of sleep. It gave me 3. So 15 hours later, I landed in Sydney (25 hours after taking off from RDU), I had gotten maybe 4.5 hours of sleep. And it was 6:40 am– a full day loomed ahead.

Said day started with an hourlong wait in the customs line. They take customs VERY seriously in Australia, to the point that I had to declare the granola bars in my backpack, and they asked if I was carrying any uneaten food from the airplane (because if there’s one thing worth saving for later, it’s airline food). Still, it’s understandable: non-native animals, plants, and diseases have a long history of wreaking havoc with the ecosystem (just Google “Australia rabbits” for an example).

So once I got through customs and got my bag (which made it- a minor miracle in and of itself), I found myself in Sydney. I took the train into the city center– the Sydney subway has double-decker train cars– and found myself at the hotel with more than four hours before check-in time, still somewhat dazed from the flight. What to do? I left my bag at the hotel and decided to start walking.

The day was sunny, cloudless, thirty degrees Celsius (or in Fahrenheit, “really nice”). I headed north, toward the harbor, along the paths of Hyde Park, with incredibly old trees lining the path. These were clearly trees that had been around since Sydney was a small penal colony on a pristine, wild harbor.
The path continued, past ornate fountains and palm trees that looked like they’d been shipped straight from Miami, until I saw a pair of white sails in the distance. They disappeared as I cut West, between a pair of apartment buildings, following no particular guide except my own feet, and suddenly I found myself at the water’s edge, facing Sydney Harbour Bridge in all its gray metallic glory. I made my way down the harbor’s edge, past restaurants and shops and the few people out and about on a Sunday morning, and found the sails again– except now they’ve resolved into the shape of the Sydney Opera House, glistening white in the morning Sun.

So there I am, standing on the edge of one of the greatest harbors on Earth, Sun overhead in a blue, cloudless sky, sea breeze in my face, in full of view of two of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. I can practically feel my batteries recharging as I stand there. Jet lag? What jet lag?

Dragon*Con Report

I got back on Monday evening from my first Dragon*Con, and it was quite a weekend. In order to see and do everything, you’d need to be able to be in… oh, I’d say 30 places at once. Saturday I was at the con from 8 am to past midnight, Sunday I was there from 11 am to way past midnight, and Monday was a short day, 10 am to about 2 pm, when I finally had to drive the 6 hours back to Raleigh.

In that time I mostly lived off granola bars and peanut butter crackers (snacks which luckily I thought to bring), hamburgers from the food stands that had been set up around the Hyatt, and one meal that was consumed sitting on the floor of the central food court (since all the tables were taken). After all, when you’re rushing between panels, standing in line to see celebrities, checking out the art galleries, spending money at the dealers’ room, or just watching the myriad of costumes walk by, who has time to eat?

The picture below is of the crowd in the lobby at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, but it seems woefully inadequate for conveying the number of people there. The lobby basically looked like this 24 hours a day for all four days of the convention, and keep in mind that there were three other equally-crowded hotels:

Marriott lobby

When you gather this many people in one place, it’s inevitable that there are going to be long lines. It took me about 2 hours to get through the registration line on Saturday morning, which I believe was the second-longest line I’ve ever stood in (first prize goes to the line for an Obama rally last year, which wound its way around several city blocks). There were also long lines for the celebrity panels, particularly William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Patrick Stewart, so I avoided those. I did, however, stand in line twice to see Adam Savage. The picture below is from a panel on the Skeptics track, which was a great discussion about ways to promote science and critical thinking in popular culture.

Skeptics Panel

From left to right: Phil Plait (writer of the blog Bad Astronomy), Adam Savage, Scott Siegler (horror/sci-fi author who uses a lot of hard science in his books), Rebecca Watson (runs a podcast called Skepchick), Melissa Kaercher (comic relief, in a good way).

Most of the panels I did were on the Writers’ Track, although I only did a few of the couple dozen that were available. In addition to having a Writers’ Track, there were also several Science Fiction and Fantasy literature tracks and a Youth Literature track which had panels useful to writers. So… much… to… do….

Here’s one of the Writers’ Track panels. This one didn’t have any writers on it, though. It was actors talking about what draws them to certain roles, and what actors look for in the characters they play.

Writing Panel

From left to right: Eric Roberts (aka Salvatore Maroni from The Dark Knight); Bruce Davidson (aka Senator Kelly from the X-Men movies); Jennifer Blanc (aka Kendra from the Dark Angel series); Nancy (not actually an actress, just the moderator); Doug Jones (aka Abe from Hellboy, the Silver Surfer, and the fawn from Pan’s Labyrinth); Richard Kiel (aka Jaws from multiple Bond movies); and Ron Glass (aka Shepherd Book from Firefly and Serenity).

I wish I had gotten to do more, but I really sort of did the Dragon*Con Sampler Platter this year, doing events, wandering around, seeing everything I could…. maybe next year I’ll focus more on writing stuff. I enjoyed the ones I attended, though… some of the best-known authors there were Gene Wolfe, Kevin J. Anderson, Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, and Peter Beagle. It was nice just to listen to professional authors share what they’ve learned about how to make a living writing (a lot of lessons carry over from other fields, particularly in regards to networking, behaving like a professional, that sort of thing). Peter Beagle regaled us with true stories of how he learned how to be a professional writer from shoplifting (although he did not actually recommend that anyone else follow the same path).

Chances are good that I will be back at Dragon*Con next year, and apply the following lessons:

-Don’t stand in line to see celebrities. There’s plenty to do at the con that does not involve standing in line for an hour.
-Plan ahead for the Writers’ Panels, and think of questions to ask ahead of time.
-If you get there Saturday morning, buy tickets through TicketMaster first. The line is way the heck shorter.
-Bring snacks, so you don’t starve rushing between events.
-Set a reasonable limit on the amount of money you spend in the Dealers’ Room. (Ha ha, yeah right.)

In two days I leave for Australia. Time to start packing again…